Life Line to Dairy Farmers Signed into Law
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#Listrak\DateStampLong# The latest news from the State Capitol

Life Line to Dairy Farmers Signed into Law
On Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law as Act 15 of 2018, legislation that waives storm water management plans for high tunnel structures, which are temporary buildings often used to dry tobacco and raise produce through the early spring and late into the fall.

A few years back, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) began requiring permanent storm water engineering management and construction for high tunnels which are by definition temporary structures. Storm water engineering and construction is used for buildings with footers and a foundation, but high tunnels have neither of those attributes – they can literally be picked up and moved to another site in a farm field.

Because high tunnels are generally only left in place for a few planting seasons – sometimes they get moved every year - they negate the need for storm water mitigation. So these new rules were pointless. In fact, high tunnels are not part of the farm. They do not get sold with the farm and they are not subject to property taxes because of the very fact that they are temporary structures.

In March, House Bill 1486, had long-since been passed by the House and was sitting in the Senate. After an emergency meeting with Republican and Democrat senators and representatives of the dairy farming community, it was determined that moving the high tunnel bill could actually act as a lifeline to these dairy farmers who will soon lose their main sources of income. The Senate then voted 49-0 to approve the measure and send it to the governor’s desk.

Many dairy farmers typically have smaller plots of land, and most of that land is used for corn and alfalfa for feed and winter silage. With this quick action, we are still in the springtime and these farmers can go out and get some high tunnels and begin moving into produce or tobacco to quickly transition to another area of agriculture production in order to prevent bankruptcy.

The biggest sector of farming in Pennsylvania is dairy. In the long term, some of these farmers may want to move into poultry or pork production, which along with tobacco and produce, are the most profitable for small farm plots.

The problem with moving into pork or poultry is the absolutely insane delay of obtaining DEP permits from the state to do so. In Maryland or Delaware, farmers tell us six months is the longest they have to wait for such permits, while in Pennsylvania it is more like two years. That’s why these folks need to be able to start planting now. In addition, high tunnels also have the ability to support free-range chicken operations, which gives dairy farms at least three ways to quickly transition to other good-paying agriculture operations. Even during the winter months, these structures can allow farmers to grow produce such as kale and Brussels sprouts in raised beds.

The use of high tunnel structures is not limited to professional agriculture. They are also being used in suburbs – on empty lots and even on rooftops – to raise fresh food in decent quantities in an urban setting where larger crop plantings would otherwise be difficult. So, this new law opens up more possibilities for Pennsylvania’s hobby farmers.

Our food supply and the plight of those who provide for us so well are a delicate balance. The signing of this bill into law is a huge win for Pennsylvania farmers and will also help to keep the cost of produce down for consumers.  

American Heritage Girls

I am asked to speak to many groups and classes as part of my service as a state representative. One of the groups I always enjoy conversing with are the

American Heritage Girls. American Heritage Girls is the premier national character development organization for girls ages 5 to 18 that embraces Christian values and encourages family involvement.

Learning How Government Really Works

This is Kyle Rivers, who is serving an internship in my office. As an intern, Kyle gets to sit in on meetings and learn about legislative issues and constituent work. These are functions of government they don’t teach in school – you learn by doing it. Keep up the great work, Kyle!

Auditor General Enforcement Act
Audits conducted by the Department of the Auditor General play a vital role in ensuring that agencies and entities in the Commonwealth are responsibly stewarding the taxpayer resources with which they have been entrusted. In order to maximize the benefits of these audits, employees at the Department must be properly accredited to conduct the types of audits which they will be asked to conduct.

That is why I am soon introducing legislation to clarify which types of audits the Department shall conduct, and what professional qualifications each Department employee shall possess in order to work on these various types of audits. The legislation will require that the Department provide a transition period allowing current Department employees to attain the necessary qualifications to continue employment with the Department.

Lean State Government Act
State agencies which efficiently and effectively carry out the missions with which they are tasked form the core of a functional state government. In order to achieve this objective, state agencies need a clear and unbiased view of their current operations so they can improve and focus attention and resources on processes which help achieve an agency’s mission, while removing resources from processes which do not further this goal.

That is why I am introducing House Bill 2209, legislation to require that all state agencies be subject to an initial performance audit conducted by an experienced auditor. Additionally, this legislation will require that agencies which may benefit from further scrutiny be subject to additional audits every three years. All state agencies must respond to their audit and implement the Lean process principles in order to analyze and improve their operations.

Workplace Harassment, Misconduct Focus of House Republican Announcement
Working to ensure Pennsylvania has the most effective laws to address sexual and workplace-related harassment, the House Republican Caucus this week unveiled new legislation to further protect employees. Workplace harassment and misconduct are wrong and must be stopped because no one should ever be uncomfortable going to work.

The two-bill legislative package would create a task force to investigate the laws, practices and procedures surrounding harassment and sexual misconduct in the workplace. This comprehensive review would reveal any inadequacies in current laws, regulations and policies surrounding this subject and produce a report to the General Assembly with its findings and recommendations.

A second bill would review anti-harassment and discrimination laws and policies affecting Commonwealth employees. The Joint State Government Commission would be tasked with reviewing the number, types and results of workplace complaints in state government agencies and entities and provide a comparison of workplace policies related to harassment and sexual misconduct.

An array of federal, state and local laws are already in place that prohibit harassment and sexual misconduct at work. To begin that review process, the House Labor and Industry Committee will hold a fact-finding hearing on April 24.

Protecting Children from Abuse
To help raise awareness of child abuse and seek ways to prevent this crime, the House passed House Resolution 757, which designates April 2018 as Child Abuse Prevention Month in Pennsylvania.

In 2016, 4,416 children were victims of abuse or neglect in Pennsylvania, with 46 of those children dying as a result. Additionally, reports of child abuse or child neglect hit an all-time high that year with 44,359 cases. This illustrates that the public at large is becoming more vigilant and taking their responsibility to report seriously.

Over the last several years, the House has passed nearly two dozen laws to make abusers pay the price, improve child abuse reporting and investigations, expand due process protections for those wrongly accused, share information to increase protection and strengthen prevention efforts.

Many of those laws will continue to be re-examined and revisited to ensure that our laws are among the best in the nation to protect some of our most vulnerable members of society.

Update on Maximizing Employment Opportunities Under the New Federal Tax Law
As I have previously reported, House Bill 2017, legislation I have authored to reverse the provisions of Bulletin 2017-02 and allow Pennsylvania businesses the opportunity to take advantage of an important new federal tax provision, has been making its way through the legislative process. Last month, it cleared the Senate Finance Committee with no amendments and could be voted on by the full Senate at any time.

The reason for House Bill 2017 is that the U.S. tax landscape has undergone significant changes with the recent enactment by Congress and the President of sweeping legislation overhauling our federal tax system. The new law has already begun to stimulate economic growth and development in many other states. If we act now we can maximize its positive effects for employment and wage increases for Pennsylvania.

I am hopeful the full Senate will pass this legislation soon so the governor can sign it and help move Pennsylvania’s economy forward.
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